The just-published Seafarers Happiness Index, covering Q3 2023, has revealed a further drop in seafarer happiness. It is the third successive report to indicate a decline.
Insurers are taking an increasing note of the Seafarers Happiness Index – a quarterly survey conducted by The Mission to Seafarers that is sponsored by NorthStandard and Idwal, with the support of Inmarsat. It has been observed that an unhappy crew is a less safe crew. Owners and operators are being made aware that insurers will be considering such matters when it comes to premium levels.
The Q3 report showed an overall fall in seafarer happiness to 6.6 out of 10, down from 6.77 in Q2 2023 and 7.1 in Q1 2023.
Of considerable concern is that there had been a decline in most areas covered by the survey, including wages, workload and onboard connectivity.
The only areas of improvement were shore leave, training and food, and these were marginal.
The concern at salary inadequacy was particularly notable in senior roles. The survey also heard reports of how catering budget constraints could force nutritional compromises. The report said that this underscored the need for well-provisioned ships and skilled catering crews. Maintaining onboard gyms and exercise equipment was also seen as an issue.
It was noted that connectivity and communications facilities were something of a double-edged sword. While they facilitated contact with loved ones, they also potentially resulted in micromanagement from ashore.
Increasing workloads has been an ongoing factor, with new regulations and administrative tasks arriving with tiring frequency. There appeared to be a growing sense of unmanageable responsibilities among seafarers, which was causing a huge amount of stress, the survey found.
The report highlighted how prejudices and misunderstandings could impede social cohesion on board. There were cultural issues at play and pressures from home that were not always fully explored. These included some troubling insights into gender disparities and barriers to diversity and inclusion. This included reports of a lack of acceptance, discomfort and exclusion for female seafarers. The report said that, to address these issues, it was essential that more was done to foster open communication and overcome biases.
From a more encouraging perspective, respondents spoke of the benefits that a seafaring life could offer, including a steady income and adventure, whilst recognizing that it also demanded substantial sacrifice.
Thom Herbert, Idwal Senior Marine Surveyor and Crew Welfare Advocate, Idwal, said that “the concerning continued downward trend in seafarer happiness revealed in this report mirrors issues we see during our vessel inspections. While connectivity enables constant family contact, it also risks facilitating micromanagement from ashore, persistent barriers to shore leave undermine its importance as a respite, and nutritional compromises on board highlight the basic need for well-provisioned ships and skilled catering crews. It is also deeply troubling to hear about the issues around gender issues and disparities. As ever, we believe targeted efforts to improve policies and practices in all these areas would go a long way to restoring optimism amongst crew and enhancing retention.”